Bubble Tea Showdown: Looking for that good good pearl

Ye-Gon: Not many people around these neck of the woods might know what a bubble tea is. Imagine tea, but sweet, and with a butt ton of milk and often (not always) fruit or chocolate flavours, and with little soft, super chewy balls of tapioca. Is it a drink? Is it a dessert? Is it a snack? My friend, it is all of those, and none of those; but it’s addictive.

My sister can also attest to the fact that it forms the main staple of many a university students in Auckland, including herself, where you’ll find a Chatime or a Gong Cha at nearly every street corner in the CBD. So with an expert in tow, I set out to find the best bubble tea in Hamilton, comparing the concoctions of Snowtown, Mr Panda, and Mr D’s. We ordered the identical plain ol’ milk tea from each of the places, brought them home, and tried all three in complete awkward silence. So in no particular order, here’s what we found. Continue reading “Bubble Tea Showdown: Looking for that good good pearl”

Burger Wisconsin: From Auckland With Love, Part 2

The fight for fast food burger supremacy is a fierce one. We’ve got BK, Maccas, Wendy, Carl and Sanders battling it out on our turf, along with Burgerfuel, Eat Burger and Goneburger dishing up three very different renditions in the made-to-order fast-casual space. Burger Wisconsin is a precariously missing player here; a homegrown chain of grills with history spanning almost 30 years, they claim to be the first burger kitchen to serve bacon and avocado in a sandwich, which is no small claim. They have branches and franchises located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, The Bay, The Other Bay, and Gisborne, (Yeah, Gisborne,) but it’s been many a years since they’ve closed down in the City of the Future, long before I ever moved here, and no news on if or when it will be returning.

So on our recent excursion to Auckland, we decided to have a crack at their burgers and see if it’s all the hype is real, and whether we need to start stopping people on the street to gather signatures for a petition to bring back a BW to Hamilton. Continue reading “Burger Wisconsin: From Auckland With Love, Part 2”

Tiger Burger: From Auckland With Love, Part 1

Hear me roar

We’ve got plenty to love right here in the Tron. But just how does it compare with the latest and greatest of Auckland’s food scene? We look at two burger joints to get an idea. Today, Sam recounts his experience of the cutting edge of the East-West fusion, and next week, Ye-Gon reports on the mack daddy of Auckland’s burger chain, Burger Wisconsin.

Sam: I’m not in Auckland often, but when I am, I love seeking out unique and interesting food establishments; after all, this big, bustling city is suffused with them, whether they be found on a main street, or hiding in a quiet alleyway.

So it was with great anticipation that a good friend, an Auckland resident, took me to Tiger Burger – A Korean inspired burger bar found on the highly trafficked Great North Road. Not your average burger bar, Tiger Burger combines the classically enticing western burger with a distinct Korean twist, elevating Kimchi – a staple in Korean cuisine – to special prominence within the menu.

Speaking of the menu, I was particularly impressed with how simply and clearly laid out it was; often burger menus can become scattered and overwhelming, with 20 or so options leaving you befuddled as to what to try. In this case, all the bases were covered (rest assured the vegans among you), with 6 distinctly appealing burger items and a few sides to compliment, leaving me confident that this establishment wasn’t just trying to be a jack of all trades, but rather a master of its niche.

Anyway, on to the food! For the main meal, we ordered the Double Kimcheese with beef and chicken, and K-Fries. And oh Lordy were those K-Fries good. As the name suggests, these are not normal fries, but fries with a Kimchi twist; and as the dish approached the table, my taste buds began salivating on overdrive. Essentially, K-Fries are a bowl of shoestring fries slathered with a chunky, gravy-like Kimcheese sauce. The sauce is deliciously sweet, with a punchy spiciness to keep you sharp; and, spread throughout is the house-made kimchi, providing a nice chewy texture and a slight sourness to contrast the otherwise savory nature of the dish. Needless to say, they didn’t last very long.

When the burgers arrived, I experienced that familiar kind of cognitive dissonance one has when faced with a burger that evokes feelings of both trepidation and exhilaration; trepidation because my mind’s telling me, “No Sam, don’t do this to yourself”, and exhilaration because my body’s telling me, “Oh, yes Sam, this is your calling”. Before me was one of the most devilishly enticing burgers I had ever been presented with, stacked high with a thick beef patty resting beneath a golden brown piece of fried chicken, and dripping with gochu mayo. As I began eating I was pleasantly surprised with the sturdiness of the bun; all too often fast food establishments skimp out on this aspect, leading to a sticky, soggy mess, and a bun that becomes homogeneous with the rest of the burger. Not so in this case, instead the bun was nicely toasted, and just the perfect size to safely hold together the goodness between.  The fried chicken was also a standout, with a dry, crispy coating, concealing the succulent meat underneath. If anything, the burger lacked a bit of balance; omitting the addition of lettuce, and replacing this with kimchi, while tasty, made the burger a tad overwrought at times with an intense savory meatiness. Nevertheless, it was worth every bite, and made for a pleasantly intriguing combination of Korean and Western cuisine.

Lastly, for desert, was Chapsal Doughnuts (Korean rice ball donuts). The donuts came as a group of small, bite-sized balls, served along side house condensed coconut milk. Now, traditionally, the inside of a deep-fried donut is composed of bready-doughy texture; these donuts, however, were filled with a gooey-chewy center, permeated with a subtle rice pudding flavor. Coupled with the coconut dip, these were absolutely delectable; there’s something truly amazing about the contrast of a soft center and a crunchy outer layer, and these donuts nailed it. One criticism, though, is that the condensed coconut milk was slightly too thick, making it difficult to successfully dip the donuts in it, which is a shame as it made for a perfect compliment to the overall dish.

So, looking for a new place to try? A unique intersection of East and West? And a bloody good feed? I can safely say that despite my initial apprehensions, Tiger Burger ticked all these boxes, and many more. Notwithstanding a couple of minor downsides, this eatery blew away my expectations, and is certainly a must-try for anyone in the area – I know I’ll certainly be trying it again soon.

Tiger Burger is located at 549 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Check out their website for information on their menu and opening hours.





Swag kebabs, Kai moana, and Deep-fried ice cream: Hamilton Night Market, Part 2

Check out Part 1 here, where we sample the wares at the Night Market on Friday night at The Base.

Saturday, 4:35pm

Ye-Gon’s supposed to meet Sam and Francis at the Night Market in an hour. He arrives in town way too early. The three of them are going to a fancy orchestra concert because, as previously noted, they’re a bunch of clarinet nerds. Ye-Gon realises he’s way overdressed for the night market in his suit and tie.


Ye-Gon finds a nice cookbook at Paper Plus.


Ye-Gon remembers he doesn’t like paying more than $20 on a book.


[New message from Ye-Gon] “I’m in town now, just a heads up” Continue reading “Swag kebabs, Kai moana, and Deep-fried ice cream: Hamilton Night Market, Part 2”

Pork buns, Nostalgia hot dogs, and Stir-fried ice cream: Hamilton Night Market, Part 1

Friday, 8:10pm

Band rehearsal just finished, and the four clarinet nerds are aimless as to where to go for their weekly dining ritual. Larissa doesn’t want tapas. Ye-Gon doesn’t feel like anything fancy. Sam unsuccessfully suggests Italian. Francis has a crisis of faith as to whether jellyfish is vegetarian or not. They decide to check out the new night market that’s open on Fridays at The Base. After a long consultation process, they eventually agree on who’s driving.


They arrive at The Base. Ye-Gon takes the wrong turn more than once before finally settling on a parking spot. They spend an embarrassing amount of time working out the logistics of withdrawing money from an ATM and assembling at an agreed spot. They notice the set-up is smaller than the Saturday market that opens under K-Mart, and that it’s exclusively food – no knock-off label wholesalers or Jehovah’s Witnesses around. It’s also uncovered, which doesn’t concern them just yet. The place isn’t too quiet, but at the same time there won’t be a problem finding an empty table and seating, unlike the Saturday gigs. Continue reading “Pork buns, Nostalgia hot dogs, and Stir-fried ice cream: Hamilton Night Market, Part 1”

Ye-Gon struggles to write something interesting about the Golden Dragon

Ye-Gon: They’re on the cheap side, and especially on busy nights, the food is hot and fresh. I’ve never gotten sick after eating there. Close your eyes, imagine lots of typical Chinese food, then open your eyes. Congratulations, you’ve just accurately simulated the experience at the Golden Dragon. The end.

Okay, that’s not really fair. There’s a few things to say about the place, which has been there for at least a decade – I forget the exact details, and it probably doesn’t matter. This isn’t the sort of place where history and tradition are of particular concern for its core audience. Continue reading “Ye-Gon struggles to write something interesting about the Golden Dragon”

South American fare at Fonda Latina

Embargo lifted

Mexican food is hitting the big stage in New Zealand. Tacos are hotly gaining on burgers and pizzas in terms of its appearances on bar menus, and places like Mexicali and Mad Mex are bringing the fight to shopping mall foodcourts throughout the country. So it takes a bit of courage for a place like Fonda Latina to, A, open up shop in the old spot that Embargo occupied for many a years in Garden Place, and B, set up a South American/Latin American eatery without putting any of the usual Mexican dealios on the menu. Not trying to be insensitive, but this is just the reality for eateries that bravely try to introduce people to something new. Ten years ago, I worked in a Japanese restaurant, and we had at least one person a week who came in, studied the menu for ten minutes, and asked me if we serve fried rice and sweet and sour pork.

So no, you won’t find carnitas on a wheat tortilla. Or burritos served with a scoop of guac on the side. Or guac, period. What you will find is menu filled with various permutations of arepas, masa, plantain and grilled meat. Continue reading “South American fare at Fonda Latina”